A Manhattan federal judge drew a parallel to 2018 proceedings surrounding disbarred attorney Michael Cohen.
MANHATTAN (CN) — A court-appointed “special master” will review the cellphones, computers and other materials seized during the last month’s raid of Rudy Giuliani’s home and law office.
Guiliani is under criminal investigation for his dealings in Ukraine, an effort that seemed to ramp up in late April when federal investigators executed a search warrant of the former New York City mayor’s Manhattan properties.
Earlier this week, indicted Ukranian businessman Lev Parnas asked the court for access to Giulliani’s seized materials, saying emails and text messages from the raids are relevant to his pending motions to dismiss his indictment in the Southern District of New York. Parnas is arguing that his prosecution is selective and politically motivated.
Manhattan federal prosecutors requested the appointment of a special master to decide whether any of the materials are privileged, and U.S. District Judge Paul Oetken approved the demand Friday.
The review will involve the findings of Giuliani’s warrant, as well as a separate warrant, executed the same day, to search a previously seized electronic device belonging to attorney Victoria Toensing.
Oetken noted that, in the 2018 proceedings involving Michael Cohen, Judge Kimba Wood similarly appointed a special master to ensure the “perception of fairness.”
“The Government proposes the same procedure here in light of the parallels to this matter,” Oetken wrote in the 7-page order, adding that “Giuliani and Toensing do not appear to dispute that the appointment of a special master is appropriate.
“The special master will expeditiously conduct a filter review of the April 2021 warrant materials for potentially privileged documents, and that review can be informed by Giuliani’s and Toensing’s parallel review of the same materials,” Oetken added. “The Government’s investigative team will thereafter conduct a responsiveness review of the released materials.”
Giuliani and Toensing failed to buck appointment of the special master with arguments that, as they are both lawyers, any examination of their electronic devices could trample attorney-client communications.
“But lawyers are not immune from searches in criminal investigations,” wrote Oetken. “Rather, a law office search “is nevertheless proper if there is reasonable cause to believe that the specific items sought are located on the property to be searched.’”
Giuliani and Toensing also asked the court to allow them to review the seized materials for responsiveness and privilege, although no indictment has been filed so far.
“They cite no legal authority for this request, and the Court is aware of none,” Oetken wrote, denying the request.
“If Giuliani is charged with a crime, of course, he will be entitled to production of the search warrant affidavits as part of discovery,” pursuant to federal criminal procedure, the judge wrote.
An attorney for Giulliani offered little response to the order.
“We knew that a special master was inevitable, which is why we did not oppose it, so this ruling comes as no surprise to us,” Robert J. Costello, of the firm Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, said in an email
Following the April 28 raid of his father’s home and office, Giuliani’s son Andrew, a former aide to Donald Trump, accused the Justice Department of “politicization,” calling the searches “disgusting” and “absolutely absurd.”
“If this can happen to the former president’s lawyer, this can happen to any American. Enough is enough,” Andrew Giuliani told reporters following the search. “The only piece of evidence that they did not take up there today was the only piece of incriminating evidence that is in there, and it does not belong to my father. It belongs to the current president’s son.”